Photo by Stephanie Breijo
Algerian cycling coach Abderzak Lounis is an incredibly patient man when it comes to incredibly terrible French.
Lost in Translation
Abderzak Lounis is all smiles near the Convention Center. Nearby, his team of Algerian cyclists is warming up for today's time trial circuit, where both the Men's Under 23 and the Junior Women's teams launch from Third Street and head through downtown, barrel down Monument Avenue and across the James, back again, and cycle through downtown once more. (The men, however, cycle this loop twice.) The Algerian team coach is incredibly good humored this morning, and incredibly humored by our language barrier.
"Quand ehhhhhhhhh... Quand arrive? Get here? Arrivé?"
That cognate stab in the dark seems to do the trick and his eyes light up. He scribbles numbers on the back of my business card, though the handwriting is about as legible as my poor French is understandable. The Algerian team is leaving Sept. 28 from what I can tell, but the arrival date is lost in translation from three bygone semesters of barely-passed college French to chicken scratch on the back of a small piece of paper. Lounis points excitedly to my phone, laughing.
We're hunched over Google Translate as I type in each question about his role as the young men's team trainer, but we soon realize that even when he does comprend, his verbal response in French does nothing for my own comprehension, and we double over laughing again. He wants me to add him on Facebook and gestures to his profile's banner photo of a younger him. He mimes a full head of hair, which he jokes is no longer there. He points at an address on Williamsburg Road he has hand-written at the top of his schedule; he'll be giving a speech there tonight, but I can't glean the topic or the time. We shrug and gesture at my phone and both laugh at our alternating attempts at butchering each other's language. This lasts for more or less 10 minutes until another Algerian coach approaches us and I hope we may have a bit of luck.
He shakes his head. "Non. Parlez-vouz arabe?"
"Non. Not in the slightest!"
Abderzak gives me a hug, laughing, and we all part ways. We put in some solid effort today, even if we spent more time on discourse than the race course.
Photo by Stephanie Breijo
Sonja Endresen, left, and her husband, Per Gunnar Hansen, right, are here to represent Norway.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Closer to the finish line, husband and wife Per Gunnar Hansen and Sonja Endresen are decked out in their country's colors and memorabilia. In fact, Endresen is decked out head to toe in a tracksuit emblazoned with their country's flag. While Hansen is a commissaire, or professional cycling umpire, the Norwegian duo simply came to enjoy all nine days of UCI, cheering on Scandinavia the whole way through. (Endresen, Hansen jokes, will be using her patriotic windbreaker as a flag she can wave from the sidelines.)
It was a long journey from their home eight miles north of Trondheim, right in the center of Norway. A seven-hour flight to New York, a train to D.C. and a Greyhound bus to Richmond finally brought them to their long anticipated vacation. Aside from an unfortunate dollar-to-krone exchange rate, they're enjoying the time across the pond.
"It's a little bit expensive," Hansen says. "You have to pay much for the dollar."
Endresen is slightly more chipper: "But we loved to come here," she says, nodding. "Yes, yes."
Photo by Stephanie Breijo
Pennsylvania's Richard Wagner and Barbara Rosenberg are hitting the trails, 50 to 60 miles at a time.
Early to Bed, Early to Ride
This coming Saturday, Richard Wagner and Barbara Rosenberg of Wayne, Pennsylvania, will wake up at 5 a.m.
They'll bike 50 to 70 miles, all the way to Colonial Williamsburg, with Cannondale-Garmin's Ted King on just one of many community- and municipality-organized fondos and events to correspond with UCI. On Thursday, they'll wake up at 6:30 to tackle the Gran Fondo Virginia, roughly 80 miles out to the Charlottesville area.
As a couple that bikes regularly — with Wagner logging 50 to 60 miles each day and Rosenberg following suit three or four times a week — they're engrossed in both the lifestyle and the culture, so naturally they couldn't miss a single day of UCI's nine days of races.
"It's not that we can't afford it," says Wagner, "but it's difficult to get to France to see the Tour de France, so it's like the Tour de France came here! The same people you see in the tour are here."
They have their favorite cyclists, of course, though Rosenberg's won't be here this year. Still, she says, they'll be following a number of athletes throughout the next week: "We're pretty much addicts."
Monday's time trials only drew a few thousand spectators, but according to Richmond 2015, these figures, when compared to international junior time trials, are still robust, and Sunday's figures of dozens of thousands are only a sign of what's to come this weekend. As for Wagner and Rosenberg, they'll be on the sidelines for as many races as they can manage, but they'll certainly catch the finale, the Men's Elite Road Circuit.
"If you were down here [Sunday]?" says Wagner, "What you saw then is gonna be small compared to what you're gonna see next Sunday."
For daily updates on Richmond 2015, plus photos and race fan interviews, read the Richmond magazine Bike Blog.